Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Pineapple Express, released 12 September 2008

Pineapple Express is the latest film from the folk who brought you Knocked Up and Superbad. It is a stoner-action-comedy in the tradition of the Cheech and Chong films you may have watched as a student, with less than your full faculties at hand. Seth Rogen (who put the bun in the oven in Knocked Up) plays Dale Denton, another character short on career prospects and motivation. He’s a 'process server', delivering subpoenas in a variety of bad disguises —when he is not smoking dope supplied by dealer Saul (James Franco).

When Dale witnesses a murder, involving a corrupt police officer (Rosie Perez) and lounge-lizard style mobster (Gary Cole), he gets himself and Saul on a hit-list; connected to the scene of the crime by a certain form of marijuana, the Pineapple express of the title.

Danny R McBride plays Red, a small time drug-dealer and double crossing fall guy the leads get entangled with. The actor has exploded on the movie scene this season doing his low-level red neck shtick in this, The Foot fist Way and Tropic Thunder.

Now, as a very silly comedy, the Express works in parts though, as ever, one of the best sight-gags, involving Saul trying to punch his windscreen out in a chase sequence, was already in the trailer. Judd Apatow, (who produces and heads a raft of American comedies including Forgetting Sarah Marshall) seems to be repeating himself here. Once again the main, male, character lives in a kind of fantasy world, in his late 20’s in a druggie haze, yet somehow able to date a high school girl who looks like Scarlett Johansson. You could say he’s playing to his audience, but you have to wonder when his material is going to run out.

As in Superbad (and maybe even Knocked Up) the real story is all about the guys, no relationship is more important that the one between Dale has with his buddy Saul. The problem is, the jokes start to wear thin and their double act seems more than a little underdeveloped. So you get scenes where the characters don’t seem to know where they are or what they are doing, not so amusing without good one-liners and when you need to story to shift. The makers have compared their film to the DeNiro/Charles Grodin action comedy, Midnight Run. Best not to dwell on that comparison.

Pineapple Express is also pretty violent, they have deliberately tried to up the action-quotient and it doesn’t always work. One over the top scrap scene: fine. By the second or third sequence the novelty wears off. What you get is a script where eventually everyone starts shooting everyone else and kicking people randomly in the crotch. Side note: I don’t think I can remember another mainstream movie where a female character is very clearly kicked in that area, as part of a light-hearted sequence: necessary?

Ultimately, you do get laughs along the way, but as with other - better - stoner flicks: it often seems like everyone —including the writers— was on the ‘wacky backy.’

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